The 13 Best Non-Toxic Nail Polishes & Brands Of 2021

A little dossier on what “clean” polish actually means: You likely see it labeled as 5-free, 7-free, 10-free, or any number and “-free” combo. This simply means they are removing a certain number of chemicals from the formula that have health concerns raised around them. 

But the big ingredients you really need to look out for are formaldehyde (a strengthening agent), camphor (which is used to provide high shine), and toluene (for vibrant color). From there, other common culprits are xylene, triphenyl phosphate, gluten, parabens, and dibutyl phthalate (DBP). The red flags attached to these ingredients range from the fact that they may be common allergens and irritants—to even serious issues like possible carcinogens (such as is the case of formaldehyde, camphor, toluene, and xylene). 

And as always, no manicure is complete without a quality top and base coat: These are essential for a safer and long-lasting finish. Here, too, you need to be mindful of the ingredients. “The most important being your base coat because that is what is touching your nail and seeping into the skin,” Nadine Abramcyk, co-founder of clean salon tenoverten tells us. The most basic to check: See if they are formaldehyde-free. “This is the most common ingredient in base coats, so even if a brand or salon carries 8-free polishes, that doesn’t mean the same thing across the board. They still might have formaldehyde in the base coat.”

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